California lifts capacity limits on places of worship

Ash Wednesday service
Parishioners attend an Ash Wednesday service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Feb. 17 in Los Angeles.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The California Department of Public Health has modified its guidance on religious gatherings, saying Monday that capacity limits on places of worship are no longer mandatory but still strongly recommended.

The new guidance goes into effect immediately.

It follows recent Supreme Court rulings that have lifted California’s worship-related COVID-19 restrictions.

On Friday, the Supreme Court, citing religious liberty, held that the state may not prevent people from gathering in homes for Bible study and prayer meetings. In the 5-4 order, the conservative justices noted that the state has opened public businesses while more strictly restricting religious gatherings.


And in February, the Supreme Court lifted California’s ban on indoor church services. It said the state may limit attendance at indoor services to 25% of a building’s capacity, and that singing and chanting may be restricted as well.

The updated guidance on the Department of Public Health’s website provides recommendations on capacity limits for counties in the state’s color-coded tiered reopening plan.

It says that indoor activities in places of worship in counties that are in the purple tier, in which coronavirus transmission is considered widespread, as well as in the red tier, in which transmission is considered substantial, should be limited to 25% of a building’s capacity.

It recommends a maximum capacity of 50% in the orange tier, in which there’s moderate transmission, and in the yellow tier, in which transmission is minimal.